‘Bad Little Falls’ a cold tale that hits stores during a heat wave

On Tuesday — the same day his third novel, “Bad Little Falls,” hit stores — author Paul Doiron sat in his warm Rockport office and admitted that the timing of the book launch might cause a few to shake their heads.

One of the literary devices Doiron uses in the series, which revolves around Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, is that each book takes place in a single month. The first book, “The Poacher’s Son,” took place in August. His second, “Trespasser,” took place in March.

“The irony with “Bad Little Falls” is that it’s taking place in February and [Minotaur Books] is publishing the book in the middle of August, [during] one of the hottest heat waves that we’ve had for years,” Doiron said with a laugh. “So maybe people will want to have the relief of a nice, cold book.”

Cold, “Bad Little Falls” is. Some of the characters are ice cold. And the weather in Washington County, where the book is set, is downright frigid. Luckily for readers, Doiron, also the editor and chief of Down East magazine, is talented enough to translate that chill to the printed page.

Doiron said he was inspired to write “Bad Little Falls” after reading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”

“It’s one of my all-time favorite short stories,” Doiron explained. “It’s about a guy in the Yukon who is traveling alone, through 50-degree-below-zero temperatures, and he overestimates his capacity to do this. He needs to light a fire and he can’t do it. It’s the coldest book you will ever read … I said, ‘I’d love to write a book that felt that cold.'”

In addition to setting each volume of his Bowditch series in a different month, he also wants to explore a different section of Maine that he feels hasn’t gotten enough fictional exposure.

In “Bad Little Falls,” the setting is rural Washington County.

“I wanted to write about the specific challenges that Washington County faces because it is one of my favorite places in Maine but it definitely has incredible problems that are hard to fix. High unemployment and drug abuse and that kind of thing,” Doiron said.

Bowditch, a basically good-hearted game warden who is often forced to overcome problems that he causes for himself, is a flawed protagonist. Doiron said readers will continue to see improvement in the character in stories to come.

“I had this idea in my head: I’d really like to write a book about how a person becomes a hero,” Doiron said, pointing out that in many crime and mystery books, the hero emerges, fully formed, from the beginning.

That’s not Mike Bowditch.

“I wanted to write about a guy who is troubled — he comes from a bad background, he makes a lot of mistakes — how does he overcome these mistakes? How does he learn from them?” Doiron said. “So in each of the books, he makes a little bit more progress. Or he has a step backwards.”

Bowditch does make progress in “Bad Little Falls,” though not all of his conduct would be covered in any warden service training manual.

“In ‘Bad Little Falls,’ I think his mistakes are more personal than professional,” Doiron said. “He doesn’t violate — as far as I can tell in that book — the regulations regarding behavior of a Maine game warden.”

And in the next installment? Doiron is optimistic that Bowditch has promise.

“In the fourth book, I think we’re going to see him taking a huge leap forward,” Doiron said. “Eventually, he’s going to be a pretty competent guy. But right now he’s definitely young and green.”

Doiron is currently working on that fourth Bowditch thriller, and said it’s due to be completed by the end of the year. That book — “Massacre Pond” — will take place during October, during moose season.

Having completed his first three-book contract with Minotaur, he has also signed a new two-book deal with the same publisher, a division of MacMillan.

And while he’s anxious to see how “Bad Little Falls” is received by readers, he said he has experienced the same author’s regret that he often feels.

“You almost need a little bit of distance on it before you begin to have a sense of whether you’ve actually accomplished what you set out to accomplish,” Doiron said. “One of the elements of ‘Bad Little Falls’ that I think I wish I would have spent a little bit more time on was some of the specific wildlife that you get in Washington County in winter. The boreal chickadee and the spruce grouse and some of those things. I think they could have been an interesting element.

“But in general, I’m very happy with the book,” he said. “And that [concern] is just me. Nobody else is going to care that there’s not a spruce grouse in ‘Bad Little Falls’.” It’s just me that thinks, ‘That would add more authenticity.'”

And when it comes down to it, the conduct of consumers will determine how successful the book is.

“I’m happy with it,” Doiron said. “Everything always depends on what the reader thinks. They’re the final judges.”





John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.